Flamboyant veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez extended his own record as the oldest player to win a European Tour event when he won the Open de Espana in a playoff on Sunday.
The 50-year-old, cigar-smoking Spaniard won his home tournament at the 27th attempt as he outlasted Australia’s Richard Green and Belgium’s Thomas Pieters at the first playoff hole after the three finished on four-under at the Catalunya Resort.
Fourteen of Jimenez’s 21 European Tour titles have come since he turned 40 and he showed he can still compete with the best in the world last month when he finished fourth at the Masters in Augusta.
Jimenez, Green and Pieters all missed the fairway on the first playoff hole and subsequently sent their approach shots wide of the green, but a delightful Jimenez chip from the fringe set him up for a hugely satisfying win.
“There’s no words to describe what it means to me, you need to be into my skin, but I’m not going to let you,” the former Ryder Cup winner said. “It’s amazing. It’s my 21st victory on the European Tour and 27 times I played the Spanish Open. I have been close a couple of times. Today [Sunday] it was very tough out there, but I got it in the end. All the victories are special, all are unique, some of them give you more money, some less, but all of them are important. You play to win and when you make it you have to appreciate it.”
Overnight leader Pieters saw his advantage evaporate with three bogeys in the first four holes, while Jimenez seized a two-shot lead with three front-nine birdies.
The pressure began to show on the leaders down the stretch and a Jimenez bogey at 17 helped draw Green into the frame.
“I don’t know if I felt nerves, but you do feel tension, you feel the pressure,” Jimenez said. “For instance on hole 17, when I saw the approach roll down the slope, those things cut my mind and take away the freedom from my hands. I don’t know if that counts as nerves, but as tension, yes.”
“There is no secret. Good food, good wine, good cigars and some exercise” added Jimenez, who is on the brink of automatic Ryder Cup qualification and a chance to become the oldest European player to take part in the biennial tournament at Gleneagles in September.